Friday, January 7, 2011

Vinegar Friday


Welcome to the first Vinegar Friday of 2011! Today we’re talking warm, swirling, muscle-relaxing water. Ahh, the pleasure of a hot tub.

Photo courtesy of Petr Kratochvil
I used to pay extra at hotels just so I could have one in my room. But after the research I have done lately, I think I will bypass that from now on. The problem is that, no matter how well the hotel maids scrub the tub, bacteria finds an ideal resting place inside the spray jets. There, basking in the warmth, it gets cozy and reproduces; then patiently waits for the jets to turn back on so it can spew out into the water, looking for a perfect host to nestle close to. Think I’m kidding? Unfortunately, I’m not.

According to researchers at Texas A&M University, nine out of ten water samples taken from hot tubs across the country was ripe with fecal bacteria. Yum. As a matter of fact, every sample was contaminated with something and these samples were taken from not only public places, but were collected in private homes as well. Here is what they found:

• Fungi – 81%
• Staph bacteria – 34%
• Fecal bacteria – 95%

Whoa! Makes you want to crawl right into another hot tub or whirlpool, doesn’t it?

Keep in mind that these samples were gathered from supposedly clean hot tubs. That’s what is scary! Even in your own home, your whirlpool tub could be harboring dangerous organisms and bacteria and you can’t even see them. Biofilms coat the inside of the pipes, creating a slime layer that is resistant to chemicals.

Hot tub rash, or pseudomonas folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicles), which means your body will develop pus-filled red blisters. Lovely.

Other disorders that can result from bacteria in hot tubs include:

• Ear infections
• Respiratory infections
• Legionnaire’s Disease
• Pink eye and other eye infections
• Staphylococcus
• Genital infections and herpes
• Lower sperm count

While all those bubbles may feel good, respiratory infections, such as Hot Tub Lung, are caused by breathing in a bacteria called Mycobacterium avium (M. avium) when the bubbles start to burst around you. Legionnaire’s Disease results from inhaling the Legionella bacteria.

As you can see, the results of bacteria breeding in the pipes and then being released when the spray jets are turned on can range from bothersome to deadly.

So, what does all this good stuff have to do with Vinegar Fridays? What do you think?

While there is some debate over what I am about to share, there is evidence that good ol’ distilled white vinegar is the answer. Of course, in the cases where the infections can be deadly, I would be hesitant to count on this. But if you have a whirlpool or hot tub, and you know who is spending time in it, vinegar could be the answer to killing the organisms and bacteria lurking behind your spray jets.

The fact of the matter is that distilled white vinegar kills

• 99% of bacteria
• 80% of germs, as in viruses
• 82% of molds

And according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutritions, many bacteria are inactivated by the acetic acid in vinegar.

So what should you do? Dump a gallon of DWV into the water in the tub. Turn on the jets and let them run for a couple of hours. After you drain the water, wipe the tub down with a sponge soaked in full-strength vinegar. There’s no need to rinse, as the vinegar smell will dissipate quickly. To be safe, you want to do this at least twice a month.

Using vinegar is not only safer, but it is also far less expensive than the chemical products usually used. In addition to killing the bacteria, another advantage to these vinegar soaks is that your water stains will disappear, your jets will be clog-free and all residue and odors will be gone.

As for me, I think I will stick to my hot baths in my bathtub. The risk of diseases in hot tubs just makes me a little nervous.

Oh, and one more thing – if you are pregnant, especially in your first trimester, avoid hot tubs altogether. According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, exposure to the high temps in hot tubs can result in an increased risk of neural tube defects in the baby. Protect your little one – he or she is counting on it.

Keeping it healthy and green with vinegar,


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